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Jews For The Preservation of Firearms Ownership, Inc.
P.O. Box 270143
Hartford, WI 53027

Phone (800) 869-1884
Fax (425) 451-3959

September 1, 2004


On August 5, JPFO mailed an alert headed "What Happened in Oshkosh? And Why Should Gun Owners Care?"

We were following up on a mid-July incident. Details of that incident were unclear, but one thing was absolutely certain: Following the wounding of an officer, Oshkosh police confiscated firearms -- without consent and without warrants -- from homes of innocent men and women. The police violated these Americans' Fourth Amendment rights and left them defenseless, knowing full well there was a sniper on the loose in their neighborhood.

We just received a copy of an August 8 article from the Oshkosh Northwestern newspaper in which police try to defend their action.

Some quotes from the Northwestern article:

"Police Sgt. Steve Sagmeister said the scope of the response was far smaller than many are suggesting: no one in the neighborhood was forced from his or her home, and police searched only four houses."

"Advocates who've posted criticisms on the Internet said the department's statement still fails to explain the legal grounds for searching homes. Wisconsin Gun Owners, Inc., a Green Bay-based gun rights group, posted an article on its Web site Friday asking the department to clarify probable cause for any search -- either by warrant or consent -- if they had nothing more than a general direction the shot could have come from."

"Police took several weapons from Terry Wesner's Minnesota Street home after getting consent to search, and those firearms were returned a few days later. Sagmeister acknowledged that the firearms were taken without Wesner's knowledge, but said it was miscommunication rather than a deliberate, secretive seizure."

"Firearms taken from the sixth home were seized after police served a search warrant, according to the police department. Police initially entered the home with the owner's permission, though the homeowner later rescinded consent. The owners of that home later were jailed and charged with felony marijuana production based on drugs and paraphernalia left in the plain view of searching officers."

"City officials are convinced the events of July 17 and early July 18 are being blown out of proportion. City Manager Richard Wollangk said many groups wary of intrusion into constitutional rights latched onto the incident, though it didn't happen the way those groups believe. 'We did go to houses, yes,' Wollangk said. 'But we got permission. And the one's we didn't (get permission from), we got search warrants. The guns we took, we returned.'"

Although the Liberty Crew is glad to hear that the illegally seized firearms were returned, and glad to hear the illegal police activities were less extensive than first reported, we're not reassured -- and neither should gun owners be.

Although this article doesn't say it, more than one homeowner reported that his guns were stolen by police. This article takes the police spokesperson's word for what happened and fails to ask some obvious questions. For instance, does anybody really believe that a marijuana grower would give consent to search his home? Why did officers take weapons from anybody without warrants? And why did the officers involved have apparently no training in citizens' constitutional rights?

Returning firearms to their owners (after, no doubt, recording their serial numbers in a criminal database, linked to the name of the innocent owner) does not erase the original, unconstitutional taking of those arms.

Confiscating weapons simply because the owner lived in the general vicinity where a shot was fired is a police-state tactic. It presumes guilt. It's part of the growing trend to treat all citizens as suspects. It is the opposite of American tradition.


And then there is the issue of police deliberately leaving citizens defenseless in the face of danger.

"But that's fine," some people would no doubt say. "They don't need guns; the police will protect them!"

Think again. As detailed in Richard W. Stevens' famous book _Dial 911 and Die_ (, Wisconsin is one of many states that have laws that say "a public officer or employee is immune from personal liability for injuries resulting from acts performed within the scope of the individual's public office."

The U.S. Supreme Court has also found repeatedly that police have NO duty to protect individuals -- even when they've specifically promised to do so. Again, the book has detailed case cites.

The book describes two nightmare incidents in which Wisconsin government agencies, including police, assured citizens they would protect them -- then left those innocent citizens dead or damaged for life. (The book also has legal and court cites from all 50 states, Canada, and Puerto Rico, as well as many other examples of failed police "protection.")

Fortunately, nobody died in Oshkosh as a result of outrageous and unconstitutional police actions. But what about next time? As long as police (and journalists) continue to excuse police-state behavior, there will be a next time.

The Liberty Crew


Thank you to Bob Burton, president of the Wisconsin Rifle & Pistol Association, for continuing to follow up on this situation.

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